It pays to be vigilant for deterioration in the fabric of your home, and its inside components before problems become serious.
Making the regular checks given here won’t take up much time. Sometimes you could fix it yourself with DIY projects.
Annual Checks Inside
Central Heating Boiler
Regular servicing prevents boilers from becoming noisy, inefficient, and dangerous. To reduce noise:
- Lower the pump speed by switching its control to a lower setting.
- Add descaling liquid (from plumbers’ merchants) to the feed and expansion tank. Call a CORGI-registered gas fitter or your gas supplier if the boiler is constantly switching on and off, or if there is any sign of soot round the flue, which might be a sign of carbon monoxide escaping.
Loft insulation keeps houses warm and saves on fuel bills. Insulation on tanks and pipes prevents freezing. Check:
- There are no gaps between lengths of loft insulation and no dampness.
- Pipe and tank insulation is correctly fitted.
Reposition loft insulation if necessary. Remove any damp insulation first, then lay new insulation.
Small Electrical Appliances
If these appliances are frequently moved, flexes and plugs may become worn. Check that:
- Flex sheaths are undamaged, and that the sheath continues inside plugs and appliances.
- Connections to plug terminals are sound.
- Plugs have the right fuse for the appliance’s wattage rating.
Replace damaged flex, making sure sheath is secured in the flex grip of the plug. Tighten loose plug terminal screws. For appliances under 700 W fit a 3 amp plug fuse. Fit a 13 amp fuse in other appliances.
Test smoke detectors regularly and keep them free of dust and cobwebs. Replace batteries annually.
The stop valves on your incoming water supply pipe and any other gate valves and servicing valves on your system can jam open if left unused for long periods. This can be dangerous if there is a leak and you need to turn the water off or isolate part of the system. Check that:
The main stop valve turns off easily – leave it a quarter turn from fully open.
All servicing valves work – leave them fully open.
Apply light machine oil or lubricant spray to the spindles of stiff stop valves and servicing valves. Get a plumber to replace any that are difficult to turn.
Annual Checks Outside
Debris blocks these in-ground collection points for waste pipes and rainwater downpipes. Check that gully gratings are intact and clear of debris and the gully trap itself is clear of debris. Replace missing gratings and clear debris. Flush with water.
Tiles on sloping roofs can be damaged by the wind, and heat and frost can damage any roof. Inspect sloping roofs with binoculars and flat roofs from a ladder. Repair damage to felted roofs with bituminous mastic or waterproofer. Call in a roofing contractor to fix a sloping roof.
TV Aerial/Satellite Dish
Use binoculars to check that the dish or aerial:
- is securely fixed to the chimney or wall
- is pointing in the right direction (compare with nearby houses).
Check the downlead is securely attached to the wall. If you have suitable equipment for working at heights, you can do repairs and adjustments yourself. Otherwise, call in a specialist.
External Review Every Other Year
Check the actual structures, and have chimneys regularly swept if you burn coal or wood. Using binoculars, look for:
- cracked or leaning pots
- damaged pointing (mortar)
- loose or missing flashings
- any sign of the stack leaning from the vertical.
Use professionals to fix chimney problems. Call a builder to fix masonry, and a chimney sweep to clear soot build-up in the flue.
Underground drains seldom cause problems. Above ground you can check for:
- cracked inspection chamber covers
- debris or standing water over inspection covers.
- Remove debris from inspection chamber covers.
Eaves woodwork, the vertical fascias to which the gutters are fixed and the horizontal soffits that fill the space between fascia and wall is exposed and prone to rot.
- the woodwork and any decorative finish are in good condition
- gutter bracket fixings are secure.
Cut out and replace any rotten woodwork, or get a builder to do this. Remove and re-fix gutter brackets as necessary.
Damaged walls allow damp to penetrate, and subsidence can cause problems with the basic structure. Check that:
- brickwork and mortar (pointing) are in good condition
- rendering is not cracked or loose
- mastic round door and window frames are continuous and intact
- soil in flower beds is kept at least 150 mm (6 in) below the level of the damp-proof course in the house walls, to counter the risk of rising damp
- there are no zigzag cracks in walls.
Repair minor defects and call in a builder for bigger problems. Engage a surveyor to inspect and monitor major cracks.
Disintegrating paint can allow rot and insect attack to develop, especially in outside walls. Check that:
- paint is intact and free from cracks and blisters
- there are no signs of wet rot – the wood would feel soft and spongy
- putty round windows are intact.
Strip defective paint back to bare wood, then prime and repaint. Cut out and repair areas of rot, using exterior wood filler or replacement sections of wood. Chip out and replace defective putty.
Windows & Doors
Windows and doors should open and close easily without sticking. Check that:
- handles and locks engage properly and operate smoothly
- glass is free of cracks.
Plane down, prime, and repaint any edges that stick. Reinforce sagging window joints with metal repair plates. Tighten loose hinge screws, and lubricate hinges. Replace cracked glass.